39 million Kenyans already exposed to Covid 19 – Ministry of Health

About 39 million Kenyans or 75 per cent have already been exposed to Covid 19, says a new report by the Ministry of Health.

“We predict the proportion of the Kenya population exposed to SARS-CoV-2 to be greater than 75 per cent by the beginning of June 2021, corresponding to around 39 million people,” says the preprint posted on Sunday (20th June 2021) on medRxiv

Due to this high exposure the study led by Wellcome Trust Research Programme – Kenya and involving the  MoH, universities of Oxford and Warwick of UK among others suggest a fourth wave is unlikely in Kenya this year.

A fourth wave the study says is only likely if a more transmissible variant such as the Delta (first detected in India) spreads widely in the country or most infected Kenyan lose immunity. However, the team says the current third wave may extend for some time.

“The high population exposure suggests that a fourth Covid-19 wave in Kenya before the end of 2021 would only be likely if the two above conditions happen.”

Explaining the third wave experience in March and April 2021, the study says it was partially but to a very small extent  fuelled by the reopening of schools in January this year.

Fully reopening schools in January 2021, the study says was associated with a slight increase in cases and deaths in Kenya.

But this they say does not fully explain the third wave suggesting it may have been fuelled by a more transmissible variant than in earlier waves.

The team cautiously points a finger at the Delta variant (first detected in India) as probable cause of the third wave in Kenya.

The team says it investigated whether the disease has been more transmissible in the third wave compared to earlier waves and found this to be the case.

 “We found credible range of increase in transmissibility in Nairobi and Mombasa which was reflected in increased transmissibility estimates across Kenyan counties.”

Using Google mobility data the study indicates probable higher infections among the poor compared to the richer groups.

Poorer Kenyans the data showed were at bigger risk as they travelled more seeking informal and casual jobs, water, and sanitation while having limited space for social distancing.

“In contrast, the richer group with job security can work from home, socially distance and readily access water and sanitation, thereby decreasing transmission,” says the study.

However despite, the poor being more exposed the study say the richer were more likely to access testing and medical services.

“We found that people among the lower economic group were likely to be even more under-sampled than people among the richer groups,” says the study.

At another forum of health workers on Friday (18th June 2021) a senior official with the national coronavirus taskforce presented data showing more vaccines are mainly going to richer regions and groups compared to the poorest.

Frist the data showed Nairobi has hogged most of the vaccines at the expense of counties in the North. But even in Nairobi, the officer said their data showed most of the doses are going to people residing in wealthier estates.

“People in Eastlands and informal settlements she said have received the least number of vaccines compared to upper-income region of Nairobi,” said the officer, who will remain anonymous.

The reason she  said are health workers who are helping their friends and acquaintances get the vaccines at the expense of the less connected and poor members of the community.

The Cabinet Secretary of Health, Mutahi Kagwi had earlier warned health workers against charging for the vaccine, which may further explain why the poor are being left out.

The new study, which also involved the Director-General of Health Dr Patrick Amoth and administrative secretaries Mercy Mwangangi and Rashid Aman suggests the country is not yet out of the woods despite the high exposure rates.

The report is available here: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.17.21259100v1.full.pdf

About Gatonye Gathura 142 Articles
Science Journalist

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